Trump vows to bring all US troops home from Iraq ‘shortly’
President Trump on Thursday repeated his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq “shortly” during a meeting with the county’s new prime minister.
“We were there, and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“We have been taking our troops out of Iraq fairly rapidly, and we look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there.”
Trump — who met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as part of a larger discussion on paths to staunch pro-Iran militias in the nation and counter threats from Islamic State fighters — would not give a timeline for a full withdrawal.
Pressed on a timetable, Trump deferred to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said U.S. forces would leave “as soon as we can complete the mission.”
“The president has made very clear he wants to get our forces down to the lowest level as quickly as we possibly can. That’s the mission he’s given us, and we’re working with Iraqis to achieve that,” Pompeo said.
The U.S. first invaded Iraq in 2003, leaving in 2011 but returning in 2014 to help quell the rise of the Islamic State. Today, there are roughly 5,200 U.S. troops in the country to train Iraqi forces and carry out counterterrorism missions.
Trump’s comments seem at odds with those of the the top U.S. general in the Middle East, who last month predicted that a small number of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
“I believe that going forward, they’re going to want us to be with them,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month after meeting with al-Kadhimi.
McKenzie reiterated that sentiment last week, telling attendees at a U.S. Institute of Peace event that while the United States wants to shrink its troop footprint, “I just don’t know when that’s going to be.”
The topic is unlikely to be put to bed on al-Kadhimi’s first trip to Washington this week, as senior Trump administration officials on Wednesday told reporters that troop withdrawal timelines would not be discussed in talks with the president.